Some worker honey bees respond to major disturbances of the colony by flying around the assailant and possibly stinging; they are a subset of the bees involved in colony defense. These defenders have an open-ended age distribution similar to that of foragers, but defensive behavior is initiated at a younger age than foraging is. Behavioral and genetic evidence shows that defenders and foragers are distinct groups of older workers. Behaviorally, defenders have less worn wings than foragers, suggesting less flight activity. Genetically, defenders differ in allozyme frequencies, demonstrating different subfamily composition from foragers in the same colony. They also differ in allozyme frequencies from guards in the same colony, providing further evidence for division of labor associated with colony defense. We use this information to develop a model for honey bee colony defense involving at least two distinct groups of workers and we propose that the non-guard defenders be called “soldiers”, due to their important role in colony defense.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-401
Number of pages7
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


Dive into the research topics of 'Division of labor during honey bee colony defense'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this